William “Bull” Halsey and Chester Nimitz may be more familiar names, but neither was as highly decorated as one Eugene B. Fluckey.
Before Japan surrendered, “Luckey Fluckey” received numerous medals including four Navy Crosses, The Distinguished Service Medal, The Legion of Merit and the highest decoration of them all, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
As the commander of the U.S.S. Barb, Fluckey and his crew sank 29 vessels including an aircraft carrier, while surviving an estimated 400 shells, bombs, and depth charges fired by the enemy
Always innovative, he even conceived of a method of for firing rockets from a submarine and was the first to do it in anger off of the coast of Japan in 1945. His crew also led the only invasion of the Japanese mainland, as eight of his saboteurs blew up 16 car train under the cover of darkness.
Through it all, not one member of his crew ever received a Purple Heart.
As retired Capt. Max Duncan, a torpedo officer on the Barb recalled, “ He gave you a job, expected you to do it and didn’t micromanage”.
Loved by his crew, he even kept a secret stash beer aboard the Barb, serving up cold ones every time an enemy ship went to the bottom. And once, in a life-threatening situation, Fluckey calmed the nerves of the crew by telling them the beer was already on ice.
“The beer didn’t last too long,” Captain Duncan remembered, “ because we sank too many ships.”
Sadly, like so many others of The Great Generation, time eventually caught up with Admiral Fluckey. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 93.
However, before passed he did leave us with these thoughts. Speaking before a new group submariners the Admiral said:
“Serve your country well. Put more into life than you expect to get out of it. Drive yourself and lead others. Make others feel good about themselves, they will outperform your expectations, and you will never lack for friends. In USS Barb, our philosophy was, ‘we don’t have problems – just solutions.’”
Of course, Fluckey really was one of the lucky ones. He walked through hell and survived, while so many others honored this Memorial Day made the ultimate sacrifice.
So as you end your stressful week with cold beer of your own, remember the fate of the boys of Point du Hoc, the Ia Drang Valley, and so many other countless battlefields all over the world. To living and the dead, we all owe a debt that can never be repaid.
Without them the world would be a much darker place—that much I’m sure of.
By the way, the oldest living recipient of the Medal of Honor passed away yesterday. The last survivor of the 15 sailors who received the Medal of Honor during the attack on Pearl Harbor, John W. Finn was 100 years old.
To everyone who ever served I offer my heartfelt gratitude.
Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!